The recent stimulus will help millions of renters.
The additional stimulus payments will bring their typical rent burdens from more than 80% of their income to less than half of that percentage, according to a Zillow analysis. But even with this help, millions of people are behind on their rent payments and face an incredible challenge catching up.
At least three million renters who were employed last March lost their jobs and were still out of work in November, according to Zillow. More than a million of those people are in the accommodation and food services industries, which have been devastated by restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19
For those workers who lost their jobs, federal and state unemployment insurance is now the primary income source. The typical unemployed renter living alone spent 81.2% of that income on rent in November, but that should come down to 43% after they receive the $300 a week from the current stimulus package.
In early January, the number of renters who could make payments continued to decline. In its recent Rent Payment Tracker, The National Multifamily Housing Council found that 76.6% of apartment households made a full or partial rent payment by January 6. Compared to January 6, 2020, this is a 1.7 percentage point or 192,613 household decline. It compares to 75.4 percent that had paid by December 6, 2020.
Renters have been able to get by with the help of legislation passed last year, with the additional $600 a week in unemployment insurance payments from the CARES Act bringing down the rent burden to 29.5% for unemployed renters paying the typical rent, according to Zillow.
But even with eviction moratoriums, Moody’s Analytics estimated that nearly 12 million renters would owe an average of about $6,000 in back rent and utilities by this month. For low-income renters, it won’t be easy to catch up. Low-income renters typically spent 53.1% of their income on rent in 2019. Only 51% of those renters said they could afford an unexpected $1,000 expense.
“Even though supplemental assistance has resumed, there are financial wounds to heal from the three-month period when some renters were sending more than 80% of their unemployment benefits out the door on the first of the month,” said Chris Glynn, senior economist at Zillow in a statement.
Problems could again arise after March 14, when the current $300 weekly supplement expires.
As eviction moratoriums are lifted, eviction could be a significant issue in Q1 or Q2, according to John Loper, an associate real estate professor at the University of Southern California. However, with about 90% of rents being collected, he says only 10% of rental stock has eviction potential.